Official Review: Apex Five by Sarah Katz

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inaramid
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Official Review: Apex Five by Sarah Katz

Post by inaramid » 14 Nov 2018, 04:09

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Apex Five" by Sarah Katz.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Sarah Katz’s Apex Five opens with an apocalypse: A storm of flaming rocks obliterates the surface of a world referred to as the Plane. Only five towering structures called megaliths survive, around which five countries — Opal, Tabira, Lir, Garo, and Ayam — soon emerge. The story picks off nearly 12,000 years after the storm. The mighty nation of Opal has been wiped out by Tabira, whose sudden technological progress hints at the staggering truth about the Plane and the mysterious beings who came before.

Katz’s characters are diverse and sometimes bizarre, but the geopolitical landscape they populate rings with unsettling familiarity. Tabira is a technological utopia where religion is outlawed, its stability shaken by a recent revolt that attempted to overthrow its chancellor, Mak Eta. Eta hands over the “hazard” named Rohem, the creature that had nearly caused her downfall, to Nasin of Lir. The desert nation of Lir holds one thing Tabira does not yet possess — hydrotechnology, which enables the Lirians to harness water from beneath the sands. Across their borders lies Garo, led by the zealous Governor Par who wages guerrilla warfare against the Lirians. Meanwhile, Telo, the young chief of Ayam, races to save his people from the Curse, a pathogen that transforms the afflicted into murderous beasts during the night. The narrative leaps across characters and places, as Katz sets everyone up for a collision course that would shape the future of the entire Plane, for better or worse.

They say science fiction holds a mirror to reality, a reflection embellished by scientific and technological elements perhaps but a reflection nonetheless. Apex Five is no exception. The displacement of the Lirians, for instance, harkens back to the Jewish diaspora. The self-immolation of the Garo freedom fighters brings to mind news flashes of terrorists and suicide bombers. Tabira’s attempt to colonize Ayam is almost like a walk down memory lane, replete with images of the conquerors and the conquered of ages past. Ethnic cleansing, biological warfare, and political strife mar the pages of the Plane’s history just as much as they do our own.

Politics and culture figure heavily in the story, but the humanity and struggles of the characters are never laid aside. On one hand, a freedom fighter has to train a little girl to join their ranks. On the other, a young Lasha — people with genetic mutations who change genders every few weeks — is rejected by a boy who wanted him/her in one form but not in the other. At the forefront is a boy endowed with unique powers who would soon discover what he truly is. Apex Five offers much to debate and discuss. Weaponizing children for war, the conundrum of gender fluidity, and the quintessential pursuit for one’s identity are just a few. The characters drive the plot, and Katz manages to keep each one compelling, individual, and distinct.

The sheer scope of Apex Five makes it a bit overwhelming. While the prologue does pique the curiosity, the beginning chapters could have done with a little less info-dumping. (In the first chapter alone, all five nations are mentioned, at least two major historical events are alluded to, economic terms are bandied about, and apart from two characters talking, nine other names are thrown into the conversation as well.) The threads of the story soon intersect, albeit a little too slowly and a bit fragmentary, with a lot left unexplored by the time the book rolled to an end. At the bottom line, however, there is a reassuring quality in Katz’s writing that makes you feel you are in solid hands. There may be a long way to go, but she knows how to get there and she will not lead you astray.

I rate Apex Five 3 out of 4 stars. While the book appears professionally edited, there were still some typographical errors scattered throughout, and variations of the phrase “chewing/biting/gnawing the inside of one’s cheek” was used far too often in the text. Some formatting mistakes also led to odd breaks between the first few chapters. These aside, Apex Five is an impressive read, perfect for those looking for plotty stories, fully fleshed-out characters, and exceptional worldbuilding. If you're looking for your next sci-fi fix, Katz is a storyteller you'd definitely want to get to know.

******
Apex Five
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Post by kandscreeley » 15 Nov 2018, 09:58

It definitely seems that the "info-dumping" often happens in sci fi. There's a lot of information that authors have to get across before they can actually get into the meat of the story. Some do that extremely well, while some struggle a bit more. Still, this sounds like a worthwhile read. It's my genre for sure. You've made it VERY tempting!
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Post by gen_g » 15 Nov 2018, 10:58

This sounds like such a fascinating story! However, I agree that complex worlds usually run the risk of info-dumping, and it's a pity that it happened here. Thanks for the lovely review!

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Post by inaramid » 15 Nov 2018, 20:33

kandscreeley wrote:
15 Nov 2018, 09:58
It definitely seems that the "info-dumping" often happens in sci fi. There's a lot of information that authors have to get across before they can actually get into the meat of the story. Some do that extremely well, while some struggle a bit more. Still, this sounds like a worthwhile read. It's my genre for sure. You've made it VERY tempting!
gen_g wrote:
15 Nov 2018, 10:58
This sounds like such a fascinating story! However, I agree that complex worlds usually run the risk of info-dumping, and it's a pity that it happened here. Thanks for the lovely review!
I admit I struggled with the first two chapters and had to go back and start taking down notes. At the end of the book though, I found that the author provided a glossary/reference with all the nations, characters, and key events. I realized I could have just turned to that portion for clarification. But like I said, it definitely feels like the author has a plan for the story. Despite a rough beginning, I was immersed in the world and its characters by the fourth chapter and was quite disappointed that the story ended when it did.

Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 17 Nov 2018, 01:36

Although the book contains fully fleshed-out characters and exceptional world-building, it also seems to have e dense and complex plot. My brain has just recovered from reading an intense novel, hence, right now, I am not in the mood of picking it up. I will surely pin it to my TR list. Thanks for the detailed review!

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Post by inaramid » 17 Nov 2018, 04:55

Debjani Ghosh wrote:
17 Nov 2018, 01:36
Although the book contains fully fleshed-out characters and exceptional world-building, it also seems to have e dense and complex plot. My brain has just recovered from reading an intense novel, hence, right now, I am not in the mood of picking it up. I will surely pin it to my TR list. Thanks for the detailed review!
Yes, it is quite dense. But I think the author has a tight rein over the plot threads and would be able to resolve everything in a satisfactory manner. Thanks for commenting!

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Post by Cotwani » 17 Nov 2018, 22:08

The beginning sounds challenging, though the story seems enjoyable. The themes are very close to home. I'm still undecided on whether I want to persevere the sorting the 'dumped info' at the beginning. Great review!
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Post by inaramid » 18 Nov 2018, 05:28

Cotwani wrote:
17 Nov 2018, 22:08
The beginning sounds challenging, though the story seems enjoyable. The themes are very close to home. I'm still undecided on whether I want to persevere the sorting the 'dumped info' at the beginning. Great review!
For seasoned sci-fi readers, this might not be a problem at all. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Nerea » 18 Nov 2018, 05:59

The story seem to be engaging and intriguing. I fancy reading science fiction books and this will be my next book to read. Great review.
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Post by inaramid » 18 Nov 2018, 08:46

Nerea wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 05:59
The story seem to be engaging and intriguing. I fancy reading science fiction books and this will be my next book to read. Great review.
Thanks for dropping by! I'd be interested to hear what you think.

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Post by Kajori50 » 18 Nov 2018, 13:06

This seems to be compact science-fiction. I really like the way the book opens.

Thank you for the great review.

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Post by inaramid » 18 Nov 2018, 21:25

Kajori50 wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 13:06
This seems to be compact science-fiction. I really like the way the book opens.

Thank you for the great review.
Yes, it made a very powerful impression. Thanks for dropping by!

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